Tag Archives: grandpa

Girls Gone Mild

I shared this story in my first book, but I was recently reminded of this situation and thought I would share it on here in case you missed it because you’re waiting for your book to arrive.

Right? Right.

It’s a story about the time me and my best friend B went on Spring Break. This could conjure up expectations of a “Girls Gone Wild” type post if I failed to omit one important detail—we were 8th grade girls and we went to Florida to stay with my grandparents at their condo.

beach-84560_640

Every morning we would throw on our suits and flip-flops, hop on 3-wheeled bicycles and spend our days in the sun by the community pool. The afternoons and evenings, however, weren’t always quite as smooth.

As you might remember, my grandma was someone who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated. What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large Ziploc bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

Because of a desire to avoid food poisoning, we often suggested frequenting various chain restaurants for dinner. This suggestion was often well-received, not only because my grandpa loved to eat anything anywhere, but because Happy Hour drinks were 2-for-1 at most of these restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

The waitresses were thrilled with their tips, I’m sure.

One day my grandparents presented us with an exciting proposition—going to the beach about an hour away where the “real” action was. We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the back seat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.

As we got closer, B and I exchanged excited glances and gathered up our bags, waiting for the car to slow down and park so we could join in the whole beach experience.

The car never stopped.

“This is the beach,” said my grandpa, proudly pointing it out as we kept driving by. Confused, I asked where we were going to park.

“What? Why would we?” asked my grandma, looking at me as if I had just suggested only playing 12 Bingo cards at once or actually refrigerating leftover chicken. “It’s too busy, too hot. Do you girls want some ice cream?”

Now mortified, I looked at B and saw panic in her eyes. The only way we wanted ice cream was if it could be eaten on the beach, which meant the car would have to stop at some point soon.

But despite my protests, the next time the car stopped was at McDonalds just off the highway. Grandpa placed the order of sundaes and cones while we sat in shock in the back. No basking in the sun on the sand, no dipping our toes in the ocean—just a drive-by in the Caddy and “Sweet Caroline” on repeat.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, my grandma leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle, turning around to face us in the backseat. “When you’re paying (.99 cents) for each ice cream, you better make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Because after all, nothing completes a day at the beach like free ketchup and mustard to hoard with your ice cream.

“Now who’s ready for happy hour?” she asked, tucking the packets into her oversized purse, no doubt to make room for the sugar sure to be swiped from the restaurant.

I looked at B and saw resignation in her eyes.

We were ready.

Make it a double.

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It Was a Drive-By Beaching

Today I am going to tell you a story about the time me and my best friend B went away together for Spring Break.

This could conjure up expectations of a “Girls Gone Wild” type post if I failed to omit one important detail—we were 8th grade girls and we went to Florida to stay with my grandparents at their condo.

Every morning we would throw on our suits, flip-flops and tanning accelerator, hop on  three-wheeled bicycles and spend our days in the sun by the community pool. Aside from the occasional water aerobics class and shuffleboard tournament, we basically had the place to ourselves.

My grandma was someone who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated. What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large Ziploc bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

Because of a desire to avoid food poisoning, we often suggested frequenting various chain restaurants for dinner, be it gram’s favorite—Juicy Lucy—or something more familiar to those of us under the age of 65. This suggestion was often well-received, not only because my grandpa loved to eat anything anywhere, but because Happy Hour drinks were 2-for-1 at most of these restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

The waitresses were thrilled with their tips, I’m sure.

One day my grandparents presented us with an exciting proposition—going to the beach.  About an hour away, the beach was where the action was. We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the backseat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.

As we got closer, B and I exchanged excited glances and gathered up our bags, waiting for the car to slow down and park so we could join in the whole beach experience.

The car never stopped.

“This is the beach,” said my grandpa, proudly pointing it out as we kept driving by. Confused, I asked where we were going to park.

“What? Why would we?” asked my grandma, looking a me as if I had just suggested only playing 12 Bingo cards at once or actually refrigerating leftover chicken. “It’s too busy, too hot. Do you girls want some ice cream?”

Now mortified, I looked at B and saw panic in her eyes. The only way we wanted ice cream was if it could be eaten on the beach, which meant the car would have to stop at some point soon.

But despite my protests, the next time the car stopped was at McDonalds just off the highway. Grandpa placed the order of sundaes and cones while we sat in shock in the back. No basking in the sun on the sand, no dipping our toes in the ocean—just a drive-by in the Caddy and “Sweet Caroline” on repeat.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, my grandma leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle, turning around to face us in the backseat. “When you’re paying (.99 cents) for each ice cream, you better make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Because after all, nothing completes a day at the beach like free ketchup and mustard to hoard with your ice cream.

“Now who’s ready for happy hour?” she asked, tucking the packets into her oversized purse, no doubt to make room for the sugar sure to be swiped from the restaurant.

I looked at B and saw hope in her eyes.

We were ready.

Make it a double. 

This trip down memory lane was brought to you by this weeks RemembeRED prompt:

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life. Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

As you probably know, I could write a whole book on my senior experiences. And trust me, we always find the funny…and the discounts.

Handwritten Hugs

As a society, we are inundated with e-options for everything from communication, dating and shopping to flight check-ins, video conferencing and banking. We blog, we Skype (well, I don’t), we forward and delete.

And while some of these options have made life infinitely easier, it’s hard to ignore the fact that something personal seems to have been lost along the way in cyberspace. Where I feel it the most is with correspondence, be it a handwritten thank you, an event invitation or a simple birthday card sent every year.

Maybe it’s because growing up, one of the things I looked forward to most was a card that my grandpa sent me once a week—via snail mail. We were super close and although they spent winters in Florida, when back in Michigan the cards still came.

They were nothing elaborate; they didn’t play music or feature textured, sparkly material or poetic prose. (In fact, most were bought in a box of bulk from the flea market and I received the same card about twice a month.) But what they did have was my grandpa’s handwritten note, scrawled out every week above his shaky signature until well into his 80s.

The message got shorter and harder to read, but really got straight to the point—“Love you, Papa”—and each envelope was sealed with an (extremely random) sticker.

Even in my manic cleaning sprees and compulsion to minimalize, I kept every single one of them.

He died almost eight years ago, so he never really knew me when I was “sick.” Now understand that this man loved his food. We used to joke that we could put his shirt in the fridge and he could eat it for lunch (not the neatest eater, mind you), and I wouldn’t expect him to understand. But I know that today he would be worried—sick with worry—and that kind of makes me sad, even ashamed.

I know my family worries now, but I think they’ve come to accept “this” as me the same way I’ve come to accept that my mom smokes, that my grandma will always refer to African Americans as “the blacks” and that my family basically regards meat, potatoes and dessert as the three basic food groups.

I’ve come to accept that I can’t change others and I can’t change for others—I can only take these steps myself, for myself.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Pretty smart dude.

I got off on a bit of a rant, so back to the cards and whatnot.  I’m both addicted to and tired of technology. I don’t want to “Tweet,” I don’t want to get my magazines in digital versions and I don’t want to have to have an iPhone to communicate with everyone in the freaking world. Even my job is changing, and I don’t like it.

I don’t need an app for that, thank you—I am blissfully unaware for now.

Anyway, my grandpa obviously didn’t have e-mail—hell, he called them “flax machines”—but if he had, I’m sure I wouldn’t still have those messages today. I wouldn’t have the envelopes with stickers or the shaky signature. Even today, getting a handwritten note or invitation seems so much more personal to me, so much more…human.

HUGS!

However, there are obviously things that I love about technology, and one of them is that I can just insert this link and tell you that I whipped up a double batch of my little hug treats.

treats2 This time, we’re going with an Easter theme. While I used Hugs, I’ll add that you can switch it up for all kinds of deliciousness—I’ve done Rolos and pecans for a turtle variety, different flavored Kisses, etc.—and all were huge hits.

bags I plan on including a handwritten note on each treat bag and leaving them on the desks of my coworkers tomorrow.  They can’t be deleted, they can’t be ignored and they may just serve as a delicious little reminder that emoticons are not human—Hugs are.

(Probably not, as they’ll most likely just eat them and get chocolate on their iPhones, later Tweeting about how they got chocolate on their iPhones, but whatever.)

Do you still send the occasional handwritten card or note, or have you become completely reliant on the availability of technology for communication?

or

Best thing you ate this weekend?